trademarking a "unique overall appearance"

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by Scott, Oct 26, 2001.

  1. Scott
    Joined: Jun 2001
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    Scott Junior Member

    Apparently Hinckley is sending out legal notices to several 'copy cat' builders ordering them to stop copying the "unique overall apperance" or the "shape" of their boats. I think this is a first - I know there has been lots of litigation over specific technology, but I was not aware of a manufacturer preventing others from copying a general 'unique apperance' or style. I wonder how this will affect all the aft cabin cruisers, flybridges, or even performance boats of which there are many similiarly styled models... how broad of a style could be 'trademarked' by a major company I wonder?


    Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but it also could be a ticket to court, the Hinckley Co. is warning its competitors.

    Even in an industry notorious for knockoffs, Hinckley says the “flagrant copying” of its highly successful Picnic Boat (and now its newer Talaria) has gone way too far.

    “It seems as if another Hinckley lookalike is announced at every boat show,” said company president Ralph Willard. He says the company will use the the “trade dress” of its powerboats — their unique overall appearance — as the basis for its legal warnings.

    “The shape of the Picnic Boat and Talaria jet boats are to Hinckley what the shape of a Coke bottle is to the Coca-Cola Co.,” Willard said. “Would Coca-Cola allow competitors to duplicate the shape of its bottle?” he asks. “The shape is part of the product they sell; it allows them to stand out in a crowded marketplace.”

    “The proliferation of knockoffs threatens to erode the investment our customers have made,” Willard said in a statement. “We must also protect our employees as well as the significant investment the company has made in research and development, new production facilities and marketing.”

    It’s not the first time Hinckley has warned off copycats. In letters sent out by its lawyers in 1999, the Southwest Harbor, Maine, company cautioned builders who were using “picnic boat” as a generic term to stop doing so.

    Hinckley’s Picnic Boat, introduced in 1994, is high-technology package (jet propulsion and a joystick) wrapped in the classic lines of a Maine lobster boat. Its success inspired two larger jet boats — the Talaria in 1999 and the Talaria 40 in 2000.

    “Hinckley is a relatively small company and we have worked hard over the past 75 years to develop a unique niche in the vastly overcrowded marine industry,” Willard said. “When we developed the Picnic Boat in 1994, it was clear right away that its overall design resonated with our customers. The yacht’s distinctive styling became a cornerstone of our product strategy.”

    Willard says Hinckley is sending out legal notices to “several manufacturers and distributors.

    “We hope that will be the end of it and that the imitators will modify their designs,” he said. “If not, we will take further steps.”

    This is from Trade Only Today E-News Daily:
  2. Guest

    Guest Guest

    On January 21st, it was announced that Hinckley reached a settlement with WellFound Yachts and Capital Yacht Sales, the Eastern US distributors of Palm Beach Avalon. Hinckley agreed to dismiss the suits and Capital Yacht Sales and WellFound Yachts agreed to design changes to the Palm Beach Avalon boats to be incorporated by the builder, Palm Beach Motor Yacht Co.

    The Hinckley Co. and Alliance Yacht Sales of Pompano Beach Florida, distributor of the Daytripper, also reached a settlement of the complaint served on Alliance by Hinckley alleging that the Daytripper boats violate the distinctive Hinckley trade dress of Hinckley's jet boat line and Alliance's declaratory judgment complaint filed against Hinckley disputing the protectability of Hinckley's alleged trade dress. They have agreed to dismiss their respective lawsuits based upon their agreement that the new version of the Daytripper features several design elements that distinguish it from Hinckley's jet boat line.

  3. Willallison
    Joined: Oct 2001
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    Willallison Senior Member

    Well I never.....
    I'm yet to come across anybody who believes that Hinkley can mount a morally defendable case proving their ownership of the styling that has made the Picnic Boat such a resounding success. I guess this just goes to show that the law doesn't always follow the moral path.....(surprise, surprise....)

    The Palm Beach 38 (Avalon) is produced here in Oz and there is one (hull No.1 in fact) moored in my local marina. A very pretty boat, it does bear quite a resemblance to the Hinkley. But there are many aspects of the boat which set it apart too. The engine for instance is completely underfloor as opposed to the Hinkley's raised engine box. There is a greater proportion of the boat given over to accomodation too, so the cockpit is somewhat shorter on the Avalon. I mention this because a short stroll around your local marina is not that dissimilar to a stroll around a large carpark. Most sportsfishermen bear a striking similarity, as do most sports cruisers. But each is different too. Should all manufacturers be forbidden from using fibreglass window frames of the kind that Pershing so successfully pioneered a few years back (and which most European sports cruisers now incorporate)?

    We should all strive for originality in our designs, but to claim ownership over a certain styling cue - particularly one which is so obviously based on past efforts - can hardly de regarded as taking the high moral ground. And whilst few would argue against the beauty or success of the Hinkley styling - even fewer would dare to suggest that Hinkley were the ones to 'invent' it. Hinkley's attitude - and the apparent inability for other companies to legally defend their use of these styling cues - is to my mind the thin end of a very dangerous wedge.
  4. fishboat
    Joined: Oct 2002
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    fishboat Junior Member

    It appears that Hinckley is basically using their money to bully other builders into making design changes. Smaller companies, or companies that are stressed in the current economic climate, may be forced to settle simply due to not having the funds to slug it out. Unfortunately being 'right' is only a small part of such a battle...a larger part is being able to hire good attorney's & being able to afford them over the long haul. It would be interesting if all the defendants could somehow join forces fo fight Hinckley's claim.

    I read an article the other day that the head/owner of San Juan Yachts said something to the effect, "Hinckley's claim has no content...we're going about our business as usual."

  5. Kazulin
    Joined: Jan 2003
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    Location: British Colombia Canada

    Kazulin Junior Member

    Hinckley has definitely started something and I wonder how it will effect all other
    designers and manufacturers.
    My father-in-law was designing and building "picnic boats", (now we call them excursion
    boats because of this very issue), in Europe over 40 years ago. Boats of this type were
    always popular there.
    I think alot of this has to do with money...when you have alot to spend and your smaller
    competitor doesn't, what a perfect way to hurt their business or have them settle to your
    Still very interesting and something I will be keeping an eye on.
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